Do you ever notice yourself feeling dizzy, lightheaded, or feel as though the room is spinning around you? If the response is yes, you might have a balance problem. Balance problems will give you a sense of being unsteady. You may notice blurred vision, confusion, or disorientation. Problems with the inner ear, aging, infections, head injuries, and medications can all cause balance problems. It is essential to arrange a meeting with a healthcare professional if you have balance problems.
The Vestibular System is responsible for providing our brain with information about how the body moves. This includes motion, head position, and spatial orientation; it also is involved with motor functions that allow us to keep our balance and maintain posture. The main components of the system are found in the inner ear in a system of interconnected compartments called the vestibular labyrinth.
If there is a disruption in the vestibular system, or a problem with the inner ear, you can experience balance problems, balance conditions, dizziness and vertigo.
Causes of Balance Problems
Some potential causes include:
- An ear infection
- A head injury
- Problems in the inner ear
Of course, balance problems are common among older adults. Even something like low blood pressure can lead to balance problems if you stand too quickly. A balance problem can be the result of skeletal or visual problems like arthritis and eye muscle imbalance. Meniere’s disease, which is a change of the fluid volume in your ear, is a possible cause. Tumors, like an acoustic neuroma, is another possible culprit.
Diagnosing a Balance Problem
If you are experiencing balance problems, it is vital that you see your healthcare provider. A balance problem can be something simple, or it can be a serious underlying problem. Your provider will evaluate your medical history and conduct a physical and neurological examination. A doctor might refer you to a hearing healthcare professional for a diagnosis and treatment. You may undergo testing of your blood, hearing, eye movement, and brain activity.
The successful treatment of balance problems depends upon the cause of the problem. The treatment for a balance problem could include the following:
- Balance retraining exercises A healthcare provider can design a program of balance retraining and exercises. This therapy can help you cope with imbalance or help you adapt to less balance. It might also include ways to prevent falls.
- Positioning A healthcare professional can use a repositioning procedure to remove particles from your inner ear. The process consists of maneuvering the position of your head.
- Diet and lifestyle. Dietary changes are effective for lessening the symptoms of Meniere’s disease or migraine headaches. For orthostatic hypotension, you may consider drinking more fluids.
- Medications. Prescription medications are effective for vertigo that lasts many hours or days. These medications help to control dizziness and vomiting.
- Surgery Meniere’s disease or acoustic neuroma may require surgery. Stereotactic radiosurgery is an option for an acoustic neuroma in which radiation targets the tumor without the need for an incision.
Vertigo is another possibility if you have problems with balance. Vertigo is a sensation of spinning and dizziness. It is a symptom of a range of conditions that can include problems with the inner ear, brain, or the sensory nerve pathway. Vertigo happens to anyone, at any age, and is most common in people aged 65 and older. Vertigo can be temporary or long-term and may affect a person’s ability to function on a day-to-day basis. A sampling of the most common causes of vertigo includes benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV), Meniere's disease, and vestibular neuritis.
Causes of vertigo include:
- Vestibular neuritis
- Certain illnesses
- A side effect of pregnancy
- An aftereffect of a trip
- Too much time spent in bed
- Ear surgery
Balance problems result from numerous causes, and it is essential to see a healthcare provider in your area for an accurate diagnosis. Medications, lifestyle changes, and surgery may help your balance problem. An individualized long-term therapy plan may also be helpful.